At least 19 dead in Jerusalem bus bombing

Israeli president calls for halt in peace talks

March 3, 1996
Web posted at: 1:40 a.m. EST (0640 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An explosion ripped apart a commuter bus on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem early Sunday, killing at least 19 people in a grim replay of last week's deadly bombing along the same bus route and at the same time. The Israeli government responded by calling for a suspension of the Palestinian peace process.

Emergency workers on the scene reported that dozens were wounded. Israel army radio reported that at least 15 people were taken to hospitals, five of them in serious condition.

bomb site

Israel radio reported that the bus was number 18, the same number as the bus destroyed in last Sunday's suicide bombing that occurred at almost exactly the same time, 6:25 a.m. (0425 GMT). Twenty-five people were killed in that attack, for which the Islamic militant Hamas group claimed responsibility.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was booed by the crowd gathered at the scene of the blast. The prime minister left without addressing the crowd.

CNN correspondent Walter Rodgers reported that the scene this Sunday looked exactly the same as the one last weekend: The bus a burned and twisted hulk with bodies strewn all around it.

Speaking on Israel Radio Sunday morning, Israeli President Ezer Weizman called for a halt to the peace process with the Palestinians in light of the bombings.

The Israeli government has also canceled Purim holiday celebrations.

It was not known whether this was another suicide bombing or if a bomb had been planted on the bus.

Reuters reported that Hamas had claimed responsibility for the latest attack. The attack followed a Hamas offer to stop bombings if Israel agreed to stop is campaign against Islamic militants and release Palestinian prisoners. Israel rejected the offer.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert asked citizens to stay away from the bomb site, which occurred adjacent to the city's main cafe and shopping mall.

Last Sunday, a second suicide bombing destroyed a bus stop near Ashkelon, killing one Israeli and the assailant.

Israel closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip after last week's bombings, barring some 60,000 Palestinians from their jobs in the Jewish state in the hope of preventing more attacks.

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